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Those who know a little about the world of French gastronomy will not have escaped hearing mention of the name, Michel Guérard. Born in 1933 in Vétheuil, the chef has marked the history of cooking in many ways.
Known as one of the pioneers of "new cooking" thanks to his Salade Folle or Mad Salad - replacing foie gras with vinaigrette - Michel Guérard is also the founding father of slimming and tasty cuisine, which he has refined since 1974 at his restaurant Les Prés d'Eugénie in Eugénie-les-Bains, in Landes, South-West France.
His hard work has also been awarded 3 stars Michelin Stars in the red guide since 1977, when the chef also received 4 toques in the prestigious Gault & Millau.
FineDiningLovers.fr had the chance to converse with this giant of French cuisine.
Your name has just entered the Larousse (French-language encyclopedic dictionary) What does it mean to you to be joining big names such as Paul Bocuse or Auguste Escoffier?
What a nice surprise! And what an honour to be welcomed into the cenacle of our illustrious ancestors! But I am not Charles De Gaulle, nor Leonardo da Vinci. I am a cook who may have marked his time. Period.
As a pioneer of "healthy cooking", what do you think of all the "free from" trends (gluten, sugar, etc.)?
All of the principles of Health cuisine are built on the basis of nutrition: the needs of the human body, the constitution of food and the nutritional recommendations that flow from it. Meat, foods containing gluten, sugar, or lactose that meet our nutritional needs and should not be restricted. Of course, you should be careful not to over-consume certain foods, like red meat. But we must also be careful not to fall into the opposite excess. However, it is true that today "gluten-free", "lactose-free" food is becoming more widespread.
Regarding gluten, it is often a discomfort, rather than a true intolerance, or even an allergy. But adapting to this kind of trend is also part of our business, and we do so with interest and curiosity. The key to any cuisine obviously remains taste and pleasure. And we make no sacrifices, which in turn forces us to be ingenious!
How do you manage your Health Cuisine cooking school, the first school of its kind in the world?
We update the training program of the Michel Guérard® Institute every year, since its inauguration in 2013 in order to best meet the expectations of kitchen professionals. This is how the specific modules "Intolerances Alimentaires" (food intolerances) were born - we were talking about it! - or advanced cooking programs, for chefs wishing to improve their knowledge of Cuisine de Santé® (healthy cooking) and to go further in their training. In the same way, we develop partnerships with famous cooking schools such as Ferrandi Paris or the Paul Bocuse Institute, always with the intention of spreading our Health Cuisine to the greatest number. The ultimate goal is to have a real impact on public health.
What is your preferred ingredient to work with in the kitchen?
I don't have a fetish for any one particular ingredient. But I like cooking with products that come from the land: poultry from Landes, duck in all its states, I love our white asparagus, which is incomparable. And verbena, which we cultivate in our gardens: it has its own when grandeur when delicately infused as ice cream or a soufflé.
Who are the leaders of the new generation of chefs that you particularly admire? And why?
We have great talents who perfectly embody French Cuisine, devoting themselves to their passion in a poetic and fresh way. I think of Jean-François Piège or Alexandre Couillon, or even Chef Pastry chef Cédric Grolet, whose taste I had the pleasure of enjoying in some desserts.
You have received numerous awards during your career (3 stars, honorary knighthood, the order of agricultural merit, etc.). What more could you wish for?
I am happy to look back at the journey I have come on ... We have come a long way since our installation in Eugénie. But I am mostly very forward-looking, focused on the transmission of knowledge on Health Food for the well-being of all. My most cherished wish is to continue to spread the good word so that the cooking respects both health and the products.
Are there any projects that you are currently working that you would like to tell us about?
We're never too old to have a dream! This year will be marked by the celebrations of the 40th anniversary of our three Michelin stars, and not only. We continue to beautify our estate and finish the last rooms we wanted to remake. We are also planning to organise many exceptional events around the Grands Crus de Bordeaux, as well as a week of masterclasses with famous florists such as Shane Connolly, artistic director responsible for the floral staging for the duke's wedding and The Duchess of Cambridge.
Where? Les Prés d'Eugénie, 334 rue René Vielle, Eugenie-les-Bains.